Ask a Zookeeper: Exotic Animals as Pets


As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on Jobstr.com--a website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours." I reprint one of my favorite "Ask a Zookeeper" questions on my blog every Tuesday, and you can ask your very own question HERE!

Here is this week's question:

Q. Are there any animals not commonly kept as pets that you think should be? -slowgrind

Photo Courtesy of bagsgroove
A. Goats! My friends laugh at my love for them, but what's not to like? They're cute, they're relatively docile and they mow your lawn for you! Pigs also make great pets, but they grow bigger than you'd think, so it's important to make sure you have lots of space for them.

In general, I actually recommend NOT owning exotic pets, because there are lots of behind-the-scenes issues with the pet trade. While some exotic animals are raised for this purpose, many more are stolen from their native habitat and smuggled overseas for sale. Infants are often separated from their mothers, and many die during transit.

Wild animals are also much more unpredictable (and sometimes dangerous) than their domestic counterparts, so owners often struggle to take care of them. They usually don't get the nutrition they need, and their "newness" wears off quickly.

Many times, owners eventually decide to "set them free," and this almost always has fatal consequences for the animal. When it doesn't, it disrupts the natural balance of the native ecosystem. (A great example of this is the massive reticulated pythons that are currently running amok in the Everglades--even though they are native to Southeast Asia.)

That being said, I definitely think farm animals should get more props for being awesome. If you happen to own a nice piece of land and can afford to support them, I would highly recommend them!